Jesus: The Ultimate Servant Leader

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September 12th, 2019

We're pleased to introduce Bill Pence as a new contributor to the Center for Faith & Work website.

Bill served as a leader in a Fortune 50 company for 38 years. He is a graduate of Covenant Theological Seminary, serves in leadership at his local church, and is a St. Louis Cardinals fan. Bill is a life-long learner and has a passion to help people develop to their fullest potential and utilize their strengths. He speaks frequently about calling, vocation and work.

This is the first of a series of articles on leadership lessons from biblical characters.

Jesus: The Ultimate Servant Leader

The greatest leadership model of all time was Jesus of Nazareth. I believe that the best way to lead is through servant leadership, which was demonstrated by Jesus. That’s how I’ve tried to lead in the business world, non-profit organizations and the church. Briefly, I can summarize leadership as:

  • Casting a compelling vision of a better future
  • Getting people to believe in that vision enough to follow the leader
  • Developing and multiplying leaders
  • Effectively executing on the vision

In complete agreement with the Father and Holy Spirit, Jesus came to us with a purpose, which we read about in Luke 4:17-21:

And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written,

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him.  And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

Jesus’ purpose in coming to us was to:

  • Proclaim good news to the poor
  • Proclaim freedom for prisoners
  • Recover sight to the blind
  • Set the oppressed free
  • Proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor

In order to achieve his purpose, Jesus would have to die for the sins of His followers. He knew that by coming to us, He would have to be our substitute. This was prophesied by Isaiah 53:4-6:

Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the LORD has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.

How does the leadership of Jesus fit into my brief summary of leadership above? John Maxwell said that leadership is influence, nothing more and nothing less. Jesus had influence, and He is still influencing people today, who follow His teachings all over the world, 2000 years later after he lived.

Andy Stanley has written that “Vision is a clear mental picture of what could be, fueled by the conviction that it should be.” What was the vision that Jesus cast? It was about the coming Kingdom of God. John Piper has written that Matthew 4:23 is a summary statement of Jesus’ earthly ministry.

And he went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people.

Piper states “One way to restate that verse would be to say that Jesus made it his ministry to preach the coming of the kingdom, teach the way of the kingdom, and demonstrate the purpose and power of the kingdom by healing the sick. Preaching, teaching, and healing.”

Maxwell has said that “People buy into the leader before they buy into the vision.” One of the ways that people bought into Jesus was through the signs, wonders and miracles he performed, especially the healing of Lazarus. People followed Jesus. In Matthew 4:19, Jesus said “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Jesus developed his followers and then multiplied them. Harry Reeder in his book 3D Leadership: Defining, Developing and Deploying Christian Leaders Who Can Change the World writes that “Jesus initiated the model of 3D Leadership – He defined, developed, and deployed leaders who in turn repeated the same model, and in less than a generation the known world was turned upside down.” He tells us that Jesus had the seventy disciples, He called the twelve apostles, and He focused on the three (Peter, James, and John). Jesus spent 3 years of his life teaching them and pouring Himself into them, as a group and individually. The leaders that Jesus developed carried out a mission, which we are called to as well, which is called “The Great Commission”, which we read about in Matthew 28:18-20:

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.

Finally, Jesus was a servant leader. He said that he did not come to be served but to serve.   He was worthy of being worshiped as King, but yet washed the feet of his disciples and knowingly washed the feet of one who would betray Him (John 13:1-17).  As Scotty Smith says, "The humility and servant love of Jesus are to inhabit, inform, shape, and fuel every relationship in which we participate as God’s people. Jesus chose a towel and basin, not a scepter and title, to define leadership. Foot washing, not power taking, is the way of the gospel."

Also, as we saw in Isaiah 53: 4-6, He was a sacrificial leader. He came to give his life as a ransom for many (Mark 20:28). Jesus most importantly led by example and by how He lived His life.

I’ll have much more to say about how to carry out Jesus’ way of leadership – servant leadership – in future articles. Here, I just wanted to introduce to you Jesus, the leader. What would you add to what I’ve listed about Jesus’ leadership?

This is the first of a series of articles on leadership origianlly published at Bill Pence's blogsite, Coram Deo and appears here by permission.

Image: "Christ Calling the Apostles James and John" by Edward Armitage, circa 1926.